Some time ago, the Israeli government pledged it would dismantle illegal Jewish outposts in the West Bank.
Though the Olmert-led government made this promise to the Bush administration, it also constituted a promise to the Israeli people and to settlers in the West Bank. For the Israeli people, the promise was: We will not let Israeli outlaws scuttle this government’s negotiations with the Palestinian Authority to bring a peaceful end to a conflict that has taken too many of your sons and daughters. For the settlers, the promise was: We will not allow a few rogue extremists from delegitimizing the entire settlement enterprise and giving a bad name to the hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Jews who live in the West Bank. And to the outlaws themselves the message was: We will not let you ruin this for the rest of us.
Apparently, however, that wasn’t exactly the message. Promises notwithstanding, the Israeli government allowed settlement outposts like Migron, where settlers made clear they’d confront with violence any Israeli forces charged with evacuating them, to persist undisturbed.
Now the Israeli government has comeup with a compromise to keep Migron intact, but moved to another site in the West Bank. In an Op-Ed column in Ha’aretz, two Peace Now officials write that this is a mockery, not a compromise:
In December 2006, the Israeli government admitted that Migron, the flagship of the outpost movement, was illegal – its residents little more than thieves squatting on Palestinian private property – and should be evacuated. After delaying action, to try to placate the settler law-breakers, the government has now arrived at a deal with settler leaders: the eventual relocation of Migron to a site that is part of the municipal area of the West Bank settlement of Adam.
This compromise reduces what should be a demonstration of Israel’s seriousness about stopping illegal settler actions to nothing more than a mechanism for legalizing such actions. It’s bad enough that Israel has long turned a blind eye to the so-called outposts and other settler transgressions. It is far worse to make a pretense of taking a stand on outposts, while in reality laundering the settlers’ sins and transforming them into tools of a more grandiose, dangerous settlement scheme.
It’s time for Israel to stop aiding and abetting the settlers in their efforts to destroy any chance for a viable peace agreement.